How Can You Manage Certificates?

When it comes to protecting your network, it's no wonder organizations are moving away from credentials in droves. Many organizations are switching to certificates as a form of authentication instead.


You must be prepared for a more involved management process if your organization plans on implementing certificates. Management of certificates can be easy if you have the right tools.

 

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Certificate Management Benefits

 Certificates need to be managed properly at every stage of the process in order to reap all of their benefits. It will be difficult for both users and administrators to accomplish their tasks without proper management. Those organizations that prepare for certificates, however, reap the greatest benefits.

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SECURITY OF AUTHENTIFICATION

The authentication process is much easier and more secure when users are configured with certificates on their devices. For one thing, certificates are not re-set constantly. Passwords should be reset every three to six months according to best practices.

A certificate, however, lasts for years.  Public key cryptography safeguards certificates against heft and use by outsiders, so they do not need to be reissued constantly. Furthermore, certificates protect against outside attacks more effectively than credentials. Since server certificates are validated, they cannot be stolen over the air. In addition, they cannot be fraudulently used because they are linked to the device. There is no such thing as a certificate you know, it is something you own and cannot be removed from the device.

 

VISIBILITY OVER THE NETWORKS

Credentials have the major flaw that you cannot confirm without a doubt who is using them. A user can unknowingly share credentials with a credential thief or another user.

Certificates, however, are tied to the identity of a device and its holder. The user's identifying information is imprinted on the certificate when he or she onboards to the network. The network administrator can then confirm conclusively who is accessing the network. Additionally, administrators can view which applications are being accessed via the IronWifi management console, which significantly aids in managing the infrastructure and apps to avoid outages.

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Certificate Management and Implementation

A PKI, a RADIUS server, and an endpoint are needed for certificate authentication. It is here where admins can start designing their networks and how they will function for end users. There is a necessity to consider how they manage all four stages of certificate lifecycles: enrollment, distribution, validation, and expiration.

ENROLLMENT

Enrollment is the process by which a user requests an authentication certificate. It is essential to set up this stage so that only network users approved by the network can obtain a certificate. This can only be done by connecting the onboarding program to the IDP of all valid network users. A user-friendly certificate request process ensures that all users obtain a certificate. In this way, IT support tickets can be avoided. Users can request certificates from IronWifi via several methods, including an onboarding SSID, a vanity URL, or a time-limited SSID. As soon as the user completes the request, he or she will move onto the next step of obtaining a Certificate Authority (CA) certificate.

DISTRIBUTION

There are three ways to obtain a certificate: manually, through administrative configuration, or through onboarding software. Most users will not be able to handle manual configuration. The procedures involved in configuring a device for a certificate will likely be unfamiliar and may easily lead to a misconfiguration.If your organization has a small staff, allowing admins to configure users' devices might be an option, but it requires a lot of work. It is likely that the average network user will have various devices that require different certificates. In an organization of 20 people, this can quickly accumulate to more than a few hours a day. The best option is often to use an onboarding software. In just a few clicks, IronWifi lets you configure your devices for certificates. Users must verify their identity before using the dissolvable client. A certificate is issued in minutes, and the device is ready for authentication. The identity of the user and the associated settings are imprinted on the certificate once it has been verified. When they authenticate, administrators are able to implement Zero Trust Network Access policies for whichever user group they belong to. 

VALIDATION

The validation phase of the certificate lifecycle is by far the longest. During this phase, authentication happens on a regular basis. For a WPA2-Enterprise network, EAP-TLS is the most highly recommended authentication method. With EAP-TLS, the user's certificate is protected as the EAP tunnel that encrypts communications is used to send it over the air. This means that outsiders cannot view the content of over-the-air communications. Because the end user is not involved in the process, EAP-TLS is extremely easy for them. EAP-TLS automatically sends the user's certificate to RADIUS when the user enters the range of the network.

A network administrator monitors network activity to ensure that all is running smoothly and no one is gaining access to resources they don't have permission to. The advantage of certificates is that their user group will be applied immediately, preventing users from accessing resources they do not need. Each user can easily control which resources are available to them when they are properly authenticated.

EXPIRATION

Certificates are set to expire after a set period of time that is determined by the organization. This can be uniform across the board or customized on a user group basis. An effective certificate solution like IronWifi provides expiration alert software so no certificate unexpectedly expires and leaves a hole in their security. Exploiting expired certificates is a common route used by hackers. Depending on whether they are still needed, certificates can either be renewed or left expired when they expire. Expiring certificates cannot be used to authenticate. It is sometimes necessary to revoke a certificate before its expiration. 

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Manage your network more efficiently with certificates

Using certificates effectively and implementing them requires more work, but the benefits far outweigh these requirements. Credential-based authentication is miles ahead of the flexibility of network settings, the benefits of security and authentication, and the confidence you have in accurately identifying all network users

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